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Tougher hurdles for building hotels reviewed, disputed
Wednesday, 05 April 2017 10:57
By JOHN NORTH
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Two members of Asheville City Council addressed how to get approval to build a hotel in Asheville — following a tightening of developmental rules in the Unified Development Ordinance — during a March 3 meeting of the Council of Independent Owners at UNC Asheville’s Sherill Center.

About 40 people attended the early- morning breakfast meeting.

Following the presentation, CIBO member Mac Swicegood asserted during a question-and-answer session,  “This (with its tighter hotel rules) is like ‘pay for play’… It’s like extortion.”

The two council members then vigorously disagreed with Swicegood’s claim. Swicegood listened and did not respond.

The two council members — Julie Mayfield and Cecil Bothwell — had pressing obligations and needed to leave early, so CIBO flipped its agenda and started with the hotel discussion.

The other item on the agenda — a panel discussion of future growth plans at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College — was shifted to the second and final item of the CIBO meeting.

Speaking first, Mayfield said she would strive “to set the stage on why we’re having this conversation....

“Council has made two decisions on hotels. First, in early February, council unanimously voted to deny that permit (to Park Hospitality Group) for a number of reasons. For me, it was the concentration of hotels around that area and concerns about parking. (After the permit denial, Raleigh developer Shaunak Patel, PHG president, told local news media that he plans to challenge the city’s decision in court.)  

“The second thing, two meetings ago, we adopted changed to the UDO about hotel development across the city, but especially all hotels over 21 rooms must come to the council” for a construction permit.

Mayfield added, “There are two dynamics, I think, that are happening. One is Asheville is in a position where we don’t want things to be done to us as a city. One is I-26... But we’re going to get to a better outcome because of it (the UDO rules- tightening)... Our hotels are not small. Most are over 130 rooms and have parking decks associated with them. They’re not small and they’re impacting downtown.

“We’re saying we want to work with you, but we want to make sure they’re beneficial to the city — and not just to the hotel.”

Further, Mayfield said, “The other dynamic, I think, is the ongoing and long-festering resentment about the tourism industry here. Some people say they don’t feel the city is for them anymore. I hear, ‘I just don’t come downtown anymore.’

Read more...
 
Mayor admonishes Bothwell for ‘Pit of Despair’ email
Wednesday, 05 April 2017 10:50

From Staff Reports

In an unusual step, Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell was publicly admonished by Mayor Esther Manheimer during a council meeting on March 14 for an email he sent that she said was tantamount to him exerting “undue influence” over a council-appointed advisory team. 

The mayor said that “I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to interfere with the task force and their work.” She was referring to his March 8 email to Haywood Street Advisory Team Chairman Andrew Fletcher and moderator Chris Joyell, the director of the nonprofit Asheville Design Center. 

They were hired by the city to help officials resolve what to do with the city-owned land downtown referred to by some cynics as the “Pit of Despair.”

Bothwell, who is running for re-election and wants the property to be used for a park, wrote the email after attending a March 8 public meeting. The meeting’s intent — as stated — was for the advisory team to review with anyone interested what it had learned after almost a year of meetings during which it gathered public input on the land across from the U.S. Cellular Center. 

Bothwell’s email with a subject line “FAIL,” began with “What the hell? You promised people a ‘vision’ and delivered a pile of crap.” Later in the email, he called the process “really utter b------t.” 

 



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